Austria Keeps Lockdown in Most of Country, Scraps Easing Plan

Austria canceled plans to further re-open the economy around Easter after surging Covid cases threatened to overwhelm hospitals, especially in Vienna and the surrounding regions in the east of the country.

“We will have to live with the virus for the next few months,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Monday after meeting with health experts and regional governors. While he promised all Austrians who want to be vaccinated at least a first shot before summer, he said a steady rise in transmissions meant outdoor dining and other activities can’t commence as planned.

A more contagious variant of the virus first detected in the U.K. is responsible for surging infections in eastern Austria, where they cause 80% to 95% of new cases already, according to Health Minister Rudolf Anschober. The eastern provinces including Vienna will discuss possible regional measures in the next few days, Vienna Mayor Michael Ludwig said. Schools in the capital are being closely monitored after a sharp rise in hospitalizations of children and young adults.

Kurz and Anschober had suggested March 1 that Austrians might be able to begin gathering again outdoors by the Easter if infection rates fell. The country’s 7-day incidence of 236 cases per 100,000 people is twice the rate of Germany. Only the province of Vorarlberg in Austria’s western extreme has reduced rates below 100.

Kurz said the infection rate won’t be the decisive criterion for lockdown measures in the future. More important is the situation in intensive care units and the rate of vaccinations.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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